U.S. strikes in Syria won’t turn locals against ISIS

A columnist for Al-Monitor living in Aleppo writes: [T]he war against IS will be won and lost on the ground through hearts and minds, not through missiles and bombs. This is something I felt acutely while talking to the people of Al Bab, who almost unanimously sang the praises of the Islamic State’s administration and the services the group brought to the areas under its control after years of turmoil.

“My business had never been this good under the local rebels, some of whom were my relatives,” said Abu Riad. “They brought law and order; they went after the criminals and bandits and cleaned up the town. Under the rebels, it was chaos and lawlessness. Now I can be sure my merchandise is safe and I can transport it safely as no one dares steal here anymore,” he added. Even more extraordinary is that some of Aleppo’s industrialists and factory owners opted to move their machinery from the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone into IS territory in Al Bab, as they knew it would be safe from looting there.

Law and order aren’t the only advantages of being under IS rule. The group also provides many services, mostly free of charge. “They fixed roads and power lines; they gave out food to the needy. They have traffic police and free religious schools. The rebels never did that. All they did was steal and fight each other,” said Abu Raid. When I asked him about what hardships under the austere rule of IS, he said, “Yes, they have very strict laws, but they won’t harm or bother you unless you cross the red lines. For me, the only difficulty I had was not being able to smoke in public. The rest wasn’t too bad; we are a very conservative town, after all.” [Continue reading…]

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